For Whom This Bell …

A piece that people enjoy when performed.
He stood on guard at the Hogarth porch.
Rain dribbled the skull groove
Where his head was axe-cracked
Cold winters since
In a blue cider fracas at the Market Cross
With his bezzie mate.
A drunkards’ spat – love and hate.
No arrests were made.
The rain trickled the twist of his busted nose,
Mingling with the dewdrop that rolled down the philtrum,
On to the bristly moustache that kept the skimpy roll-up
Balanced on his wind-chapped bottom lip, dry.
I had gone to the pub for last orders,
And to stock up on toilet paper,
But the guy looked in need of cheerful chat
And I had a minute or so to spare.
Small talking, I suggested, in passing, 
“The indoor ban must’ve helped your smoking life considerably.”
He took a break from scanning paving slabs for a butt worth bending for,
Snorted a rain and dewdrop blend deep into his cavernous nostrils. 
“Yeah. Nah. Ain’t nothing to finding fag ends no more,
Time was when there was an art to it. Knowing where to look and that… ”
(He wiped a dew drop with the back of his hand, sighed and black holed into a parallel universe with a population of… just… the one.)
”… Like fishing for trout.
I like a bit of trout
But it ain’t the same these days.
They’re all over the frigging place now.
Can’t bleedin’ miss ‘em…
But I’ve got a bad back,
The other bastids get the best ones… friggin’ amachooers.
It’s dog eat dog in the fag end world.”
I offered him a BA Hons. Philosophy (failed) insight, 
“If things don’t change they’ll stay exactly as they are.”
He sneezed and snot sprayed my duffel coat toggles. 
“It’s gerrin’ friggin’ worser than ever.”
“Yeah, I dunno what the world’s comin’ to… ”
“It’s coming to a sudden end. A full bleedin’ stop, that’s what. Only it won’t be no asteroid what sees us all dead, like a proper world’s end. Nah, it’ll be some crazy bastard with a dirty briefcase bomb blowin’ us all to Timbuk soddin’ tu.”
He coughed and his roll-up split apart.
He picked a bloody Rizla from his lip. 
He muttered, “Bastards can’t even end the soddin’ world aright,”
And angled to retrieve a half-smoked Benson – still alight,
“I agree, mate, we’re doomed,” I offered – lifting the mood.
“Doomed! Doomed! I’ll say we’re doomed,
And doom ain’t what it used to be.
It’s piss-poor doom these days…
I remember when doom stood for something.
You could rely on doom.
An ‘igh-steppin’ black-plumed ‘orse-drawn hearse, tall silk-topper doom…
A proper doom… wait for it… wait for it… not a poppadoom…TA DAH!”
He chuckled and coughed and rich ruby phlegm spattered my shoe.
From within the Hogarth a tolling bell,
“Dolente… dolore… dolente… dolore… dolente… dolore…”
I was gored on the horns of a dilemma;
It was beer or choking Jeremiah?
“Dolente… dolore… dolente… dolore… dolente… dolore…”
The twelfth chime died away,
As I scuttled inside for last orders, me.


© coolhermit 2023
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